Fixer: Our new director isn’t from HR and doesn’t understand it

27 May 2021 By PM Editorial

They are well liked but don't know anything about the field – how can I raise this with my bosses?

I’m an HR manager in a retail business that has just undergone a restructure because of the difficulties we faced during the coronavirus pandemic. As part of this, quite a few senior high earners have been made redundant and departments have been amalgamated, and now our marketing director is also responsible for HR. They are well-liked but unfortunately know nothing about the field and it’s starting to make the people team’s jobs more difficult. It would have made much more sense for someone at my level to step up. How can I raise this with bosses at my company without appearing jealous?

From a strategic talent management perspective, rotation of leadership through different functions including HR has been proven to result in more well-rounded and empathetic leaders. I have witnessed first hand the reciprocal benefits of inspiring other functional leaders bringing their particular business acumen into HR, and rotating back out with a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the profession. 

From an HR development perspective, a model like this can plateau progression to director level, but I still believe the pros outweigh the cons. In your case, this has unfortunately constituted more of a necessity but, first, I would advocate raising it with your bosses in a ‘what else can we do to further integrate the new director into HR?’ intent, and approach it in a reciprocal coaching fashion. Scheduling team information sharing sessions would also speed up the new director’s understanding. On an ongoing basis, in addition to one-to-one sharing, a performance management team objective such as continued shared learning would help ensure this practice carries on. This is truly a developmental opportunity all round.

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